SMART Sales Tax Renewal
The Sonoma Marin Area Regional Transit (SMART) District is placing a measure on the March 2020 Ballot to extend its existing 1/4% sales tax until the year 2059.
Because the current sales tax authorization (Measure Q of 2008) expires in 2029, its funding is now known to be insufficient to maintain current service levels while work continues on the envisioned project north of Windsor. Financial projections are summarized in the 2019 approved strategic plan for the SMART Project, which can be found here in draft form.
The Transportation and Land-Use Coalition supports the proposed tax renewal for the following reasons:
- The SMART train and multi-use pathway give North Bay residents attractive alternatives to driving that is a great benefit now and for generations to come. The project serves both public convenience and the environment.
- The SMART project has had remarkable success in re-establishing passenger rail service and building the multi-use pathway in spite of the extensive financial disruption caused by the Great Recession in 2009. Since the first phase of rail service commenced in 2017 the trains have carried more than a million and a half riders, and two thirds of the adjoining pathway is now in use or under construction. SMART already serves 80% of the population included in its initial vision, and should be enabled to build out its original vision.
- During the first decade of the Measure Q ¼% sales tax, SMART has received $289 million in revenue. These funds have attracted more than $300 million in State & Federal grants to construct and operate the first stages of the envisioned Larkspur-to-Cloverdale rail and trail system. Service to the City of Larkspur, providing access to the ferry will commence shortly, and work has begun to extend the tracks and adjoining pathway to the City of Windsor. In addition to the original vision, SMART has funding for trains to serve riders late in the evening and stations have been built in downtown Novato and at Airport Boulevard.
- Train service is stimulating development in the center of cities along the route, and the process has just begun. It is important for our growing population to be able to live in walkable communities that reduce the need to own or drive a car. The housing and mixed-use developments that will arise within walking and cycling distance of SMART train stations are crucial for the North Bay’s future.
- The train tracks have an estimated 50-year life-span, and because all transportation systems depend upon public support, it is prudent for the sales tax to be of similar duration. By extending its funding, SMART can decrease its interest payments by $12 million per year through debt restructuring.
- Without assured funding to support passenger operations, SMART would find it difficult to qualify for grant funding to extend train service or the multi-purpose pathway to cities north of Windsor.
- The visible success in serving residents and employers along SMART’s present route has stimulated State interest in extending service eastward to Fairfield-Suisun and the Capitol Corridor. This would connect North Bay passenger service with the national rail network benefitting workers as well as employers, and providing added travel options to residents of the North Bay.